Nonprofit blogging mistakes you might be making (+ how to stop)

Besides ensuring you have user-friendly forms for donors and volunteers, the digital strategists at ArcStone would argue that having a well-executed blog is the best thing your nonprofit can do in terms of your website. Unfortunately, nonprofit marketers get so busy that blog posts get written hastily, whenever there’s a spare second. That’s understandable, and we don’t want that predicament to prevent you from writing as it’s better than not writing. However, there are a few negative trends we’d like to point out that, when avoided, could help make the little blog development time you have more worth your while.

1. Not scheduling your posts in advance (and not publishing consistently)

Given that you have many other spinning plates, it makes sense that you wouldn’t have time to plan out your content calendar. But time and again, marketing experts state that scheduling out posts and executing them consistently can create huge gains for your blog. What’s more, studies show readers see inconsistent publishing as a sign that a brand is “out of touch or not up to date” with their habits and needs.

There are so many FREE tools out there to help you stay on top of publishing. We tested and reviewed 3 popular content management tools and wrote a recent post on why we recommend Trello.

free-tools-for-nonprofits
Image Source: CoSchedule

2. Forgetting the importance of authenticity & your brand voice

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your blog. You post about your upcoming event or you comment on a recent occurrence in your field of work, however there’s so much more to write about than that. When people come to your site, they are trying to learn about you and your cause. They want to hear your unique voice otherwise, you’ll blend with the crowd and they won’t know why they should pay attention to you specifically.

Be sure you hone in on what your brand voice is and you consistently write with that in mind. For inspiration on topics, take a look at our go-to sources for when ArcStonian’s get writer’s block. You can derive inspiration from what other successful nonprofits are writing about; charity:water, Save the Children, St. Jude and Kiva all post a wide array of topics that speak to who they are and who they serve.

nonprofit-blogging
Image source: Save the Children

3. Trying too hard with your headline

Though it’s important you stand out and readers feel excited by your headlines, it’s more important your headlines do their job. A title’s main role is to tell readers what your post is about. Don’t get too caught up in being clever or humorous as that’s not the point.

ArcStone wrote a helpful post on how you can craft a title that is primarily descriptive, secondarily SEO-friendly and then if there’s room for it, clever: “Optimize your blog post titles for search, but don’t be boring.”

4. Assuming your readers have all day

This isn’t true for everyone or every post, but for the most part, people like when you get to the point efficiently. Sometimes, you can tell that in-depth full story. But when you’re writing a post on donations or volunteering, explain your point concisely and point your audience towards action quickly. When it comes to these posts directed towards taking action, always keep the goal of your post in mind and include a call to action.

5.  Neglecting to implement the SEO and user-friendly details

Writing the post is work enough, we know, but a blog won’t get far if you neglect some important additional steps. Each post should have alt tags, metadata and titles on its photos and in other areas. You can do so with some of the strongest, free SEO tools for nonprofits out there. Here’s a solid review of SEO tools done by Search Engine Land.

6. Ignoring dialogue

For many in the nonprofit space, community engagement is super important to the very mission of an organization. Community takes hold in many forums and your blog can totally become a catalyst for that. If you have a comment section, pay attention to it. If people comment on your posts on social, always respond. If they don’t participate in either of these, consider prioritizing this. There are tools that can help like Hootsuite and Disqus. We also have a post that reviews the best ways and tools to encourage conversations.

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Image source: Lithium

7. Overlooking Google Analytics

If you take away anything from this article, we hope it’s this last point. Pay attention to your Google Analytics data! We see so many clients post content and then let it sit there. They don’t know what’s working and what isn’t. They don’t base their strategy off of this data. As our digital strategist, Jerod put it,

“Only you know your story well enough to tell it, but on the flip side, only your visitors know what they want.”

If you don’t look at what posts are getting the most attention, how long users are reading them and where they go next, you are not listening to them.

Need help getting started with Google Analytics?


We hope we didn’t overwhelm you with corrections. Instead, this is supposed to serve as a way to make the time you do have more effective. We want to highlight areas that are often neglected so that you know where you can make simple gains.

If you’re struggling to implement any of these aspects but you recognize their importance, ArcStone would love to work with you to come up with a more manageable content marketing strategy and set you up with the tools that will help. Contact our team »

Visuals matter. Learn the basics of design for nonprofits.

You are already balancing quite a few job roles. Whether it be in nonprofit communications, development, website management, digital strategy—the list goes on. We get it, you’re not exactly excited about adding “designer” to those responsibilities. But let’s face it, especially if you work for a smaller nonprofit, you’ll likely be in charge of putting together branded materials. Beyond that, design is integral to everything you’re doing. Whether it be to get donors, volunteers or grow general awareness, aesthetics go hand in hand with all your work you do.

We’re not telling you to go back to design school, but we are going to point out a few web design basics that could help you take your nonprofit work to the next level.

These come from Mark Hemeon, the CEO & Founder of Design Inc. His post goes into more depth, but this is what we think you should know.

4 basic rules of graphic design for nonprofits to know

1. Prioritize your message.

Well duh. This seems like a no-brainer. But we sometimes forget it.  As we build out web pages or communications materials, we try to fit so much on the page (as we have a lot to say) that we sometimes forget our overall goals. Once you’ve finished building out content, always take a step back and look at it as if you’ve never seen it before. What’s the first thing you notice? Is the message what you want it to be?

Acumen immediately pulls out their mission statement in a creative way. They also draw your attention to their primary goal with the “donate” CTA. This prioritization carries through the rest of the homepage as your eyes flow to the most important pieces.

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Image source: Top Nonprofits

2. Alignment matters.

If something looks off about a piece you’ve created, it may be as simple as checking the alignment. Be sure to keep it left, right or centrally aligned. Take a look below to understand how much this can impact how you process text:

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Image Source: Slideshare.net

3. Text needs space.

One of the worst moves you can make when laying out type is cramming it all together. Readers will not want to know your nonprofit’s mission statement if it hurts their eyes to take in. If you’re unsure, leave more space than you think you need.

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Image source: Developer.Apple.com

 

4. Color communicates.

A few important notes about color: stick to your brand and don’t forget about legibility.

It’s tempting to go crazy with color, but most of the time, you should stick to your brand guidelines for consistency’s sake. You should also be wary of using it with text. It can get hard to read and look unprofessional.

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Image source: sitepoint

 

Ready to design like a pro? Well, luckily you don’t have to be. Use tools like Canva or get in touch with an agency to either get feedback or purchase a few templates that could be recycled.

If you need help with your designs, contact us at ArcStone. We do a lot of web design and graphic design work with nonprofits and love to make an impact.

Tackling nonprofit web design projects, with some help from local experts

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Website redesigns are a huge undertaking, especially for nonprofits who have very specific (and often tight) budgets and not a minute of spare time. ArcStone has been focusing on nonprofit web design for a few years now, so we’re family with situations where decision makers are challenged beyond their original expectations. How can you prep so you are ready for what your website project may throw your way?

We think you should attend a happy hour.

Hear us out. Minneapolis web design, content and development experts are getting together this upcoming week to talk through the challenges of a website redesign. These folks include ArcStone’s CEO David Carnes as a moderator of the panel discussion and representatives from three Minneapolis web design agencies – ArcStone, Brandpoint and fjorge.

The panelist are:

This discussion may include:

  • Where to start your website redesign
  • What goals to keep in mind
  • Tricks for staying under budget
  • Ideas for managing your team
  • Aspects you may be forgetting
  • Whatever questions you and other guests ask!

This is all happening Tuesday, June 6th, 3:30pm-6pm at the Shindig Event Space.

  • 3:30-4:30PM: Registration & Social Hour
  • 4:30-5:30PM: Panel Discussion moderated by David
  • 5:30-6:00PM: Questions & Wrap Up

Besides the amazing knowledge you’ll gain by listening to the experience of others, you will also receive a free drink ticket and delicious apps. Sign up here. Cheers to a successful redesign!

Nonprofit web accessibility – a recap from experts.

You already understand the value of investing in a quality website. Unfortunately, many nonprofits don’t understand the value in ensuring their website is accessible. For many nonprofits, (whether they know it or not) it is already mandatory and for the rest, it soon will be.

According to FMJ Law, “if your organization receives federal financial assistance such as grants or loans, it is also subject to section 504.” Just a reminder, Section 504 entails no one can be discriminated against based on a disability. This also means any major activities an organization has must be adapted so that all people can participate. Learn more with this breakdown of the law

When it comes to your website, this means it needs to be navigable for people with disabilities.

To understand more on what this means for you, we held an event, “The Human, Design, and Legal Implications of Web Accessibility,” last March and have since, gathered the presentations. Here’s what we have.

Web Accessibility Resource Center

View the full video of the event from our recording on Facebook Live.

Presentations from our panelists

Accessible 360 helped us understand the definition of web accessibility, why it matters, and what to do about it.

Download presentation here.

Download presentation here

ArcStone Accessibility Content

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More links and resources:

An offer from our team

Want to know if your site is accessible and get some help if it isn’t?

Contact our team for a free consultation »

The human, design and legal implications of web accessibility [Event]

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ArcStone’s throwing an event later this month and would like you to come!

The event, “The human, design and legal implications of web accessibility” covers some of the common questions about web accessibility.

  • What does web accessibility really mean?
  • What’s it like to use a screen reader to browse the web?
  • How should a nonprofit or business approach web accessibility?
  • What are the risks for my organization if our site is not accessible?

We have big plans for this discussion!  First we’ll aim for a better understanding of web accessibility in general. We’ll hope to gain new perspectives on the challenges and frustrations for those who can’t access sites they want to visit. And we’ll learn about concrete steps you can take to insure that your site will work for everyone.

Already convinced? Register for the event here.

While access to websites for everyone has always been critical, we’ve noticed that more than ever before, nonprofits and businesses have questions about what accessibility means and are now more committed to having a web presence that can be accessed and enjoyed by all.

“The Human, Design and Legal Implications of Web Accessibility,” event will feature three unique perspectives. This includes full-time assistive technology instructor from Vision Loss Resources, accessibility experts from Accessible360 and two employment attorneys specializing in this area from Fafinski, Mark & Johnson. These two lawyers have experience handling web accessibility litigation and how it pertains to employment law and nonprofits.

We hope you can join us for an afternoon of mutual learning, food and refreshments.

When:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

3:00 – 5:00pm

Where:

ArcStone

2836 Lyndale Avenue South

Suite 132

Minneapolis, MN 55408

Excited to have you join us! Register for the event here.

Free graphic design software: Create with Canva for Nonprofits

For two years in my marketing role at ArcStone, I have used Canva almost daily. With the combination of free stock images and Canva, I create rock solid graphics for free in less than 20 minutes. Currently I use the free version of Canva as we already pay for the expensive Adobe suite. However, I have to admit, there are several times I’m jealous of the paid version features. The free version gives me all I need, but the paid version has features that could automate much of my design work.

Then I found out, it’s free for nonprofits!!! And I had to encourage you to take advantage of it.

Canva for Nonprofits Features

There’s so much available to you registered nonprofits, it’s crazy. Take a look:

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The ones a nonprofit could definitely benefit from include:

  • Infographic templates
  • Social media headers
  • Newsletter layouts
  • Email invitations (for volunteers and donors)
  • Graph and diagram generators

Free Design Templates

With “document types” you get access 8,000+ templates to start your design out. If you’ve been considering amping up the aesthetics of your social media, website or blog, now you have a way to do so without costing you anything but a few minutes.

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Free Photo Editing Online

Rather than downloading a photo, opening up Photoshop, and then plugging the image into your design, you can do it all within Canva. They also have their own photo library which is pretty extensive.

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Image source: Canva for Nonprofits

Free Graph Generator

Nonprofits have a lot of reporting to do and drawing out graphs by hand can take forever. Right in Canva you can plugin a graph, chart or diagram.

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Examples of nonprofits using Canva

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Image source: Canva Case Studies – Amnesty International

 

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Image source: Canva Case Studies – Fistula Foundation

 

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Image source: Canva Case Studies – Muscular Dystrophy

How much money you save using Canva

Canva isn’t an expensive tool, but it can add up if used across a team. It’s $12.95 per month per user, so if just you, a coworker and an intern are using it, it’d be close to $500 per year. Besides that, the cost of a designer on staff or even outsourcing some of these designs is in the thousands.

In short: Canva is gifting nonprofits big time.

How to get Canva for free

Convinced this tool is going to benefit your team? All you need to do is set up an account here, then go over to their application page. Fill out their form and submit a document to prove your a 501c(3) status.

Good luck with all your designing! For more app and tool reviews, follow the ArcStone blog.

Start a nonprofit blog to increase engagement with your cause

When first helping nonprofits develop their marketing strategy, one of ArcStone’s primary objectives is getting them set up with a blogging strategy. Nonprofit blogs hold huge potential. They contribute to huge gains in several main goals such as spreading the word about your cause, reigning in donors, and getting people to subscribe to your newsletter. Our VP of Marketing at ArcStone, Lisa, recently wrote a post on how to get started with this process, which I repurposed for you all below.

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Before we offer tips, 3 reasons why to start a nonprofit blog

  • You know that search tool, Google? The one that gets people to find your nonprofit in the first place? When you have a blog, and frequently post on it, your site will be more heavily indexed. This means a higher chance of people finding your site. Additionally, research from marketing giant HubSpot, found that sites that have a blog also have 97% more inbound links. Again, this means higher online visibility.
  • Turns out, people actually trust blog content. BlogHer found that 81% of U.S. consumers trust the information they find on blogs. If you’re worried people won’t take your content seriously, think again.
  • If people are coming to your blog, you have a higher chance of engaging with them. Whether your messaging is about fundraising or volunteering, you’ll be able to speak to an audience you wouldn’t have otherwise reached.

We recognize you may already be convinced, but there’s a reason your nonprofit hasn’t launched a blog (or kept up with your current one). It’s challenging and it takes time to see results. Through the following 10 tips, we hope to help you start a nonprofit blog that is successful.

10 tips towards starting a nonprofit blog

1. Develop personas.

Nonprofits often struggle as they have vast audiences. The problem is, their content speaks to everyone at once. This also means they’re not really reaching anyone at an individual, engaging level. Jake, the liberal arts student who’s interested in volunteering will have one set of needs and goals. Whereas Mary, the finance professional who’s interested in making a donation to your organization will have her own. Whenever you start writing, know who you’re target reader is.

Use our infographic to develop your personas »

start-a-nonprofit-blog

2. Write for your audience.

If you want to pull in traffic from Google, you’ll need to write content that answers people’s search queries. If possible, use a keyword research tool such as SEMRush to find out what people are typing into Google. If you can’t afford investing in a tool right now, you can even just rely on Google Suggest. See below:

start-a-nonprofit-blog

Based on the search above, a popular topic for a blog post might be “Why volunteering is good for your health” as people are already searching for content regarding that topic.

3. Study your keywords.

If you’ve found a strong key phrase to write about, do some more research on what other wording you can use throughout your post. You’ll want to do this in a natural way so as not to “keyword stuff.” Learn more about SEO strategy here »

4. Determine your call to action.

Now that you know who you’re writing for, you have to decide what you even want them to do after they read your post. If you’re trying to get more volunteers like Jake for your next event, write a post on how volunteering is good for your health, and then include a call to action that asks him to sign up. Craft a killer CTA »

5. Map out a draft.

Once you have your audience, your goals and keywords, include it all in a draft. This will help you stay focused on your nonprofit’s goals as you develop more content.

6. Decide the length.

Nonprofit clients often ask how long their blog post should be. There’s not one right answer here. If you have time for longer format blog posts (2000+ words), you’ll have more keyword targeting opportunities. This type of post also tends to give you more room backlinks.

Shorter posts often are more attainable when you’re low on time or budget. They also have an advantage many don’t realize: Google likes fresh content and according to HubSpot, organizations that blog more than 20 times per month get five times the traffic than those who blog less than four times per month.

Lisa’s formula: 8 short posts to every long post.

7. Find your writer.

The writing process gets tricky. If you’re too busy to write a post yourself, consider outsourcing. Review the pros and cons »

If it’s more of a matter of not having the knowledge base of the subject, find yourself a subject matter expert. To save time and budget, ask them specific questions so you get the answers you need quickly.

Another way to save time? Use content management tools. That way, you can communicate with your team and stay organized. See our favorite writing tools for nonprofits »

8. Optimize your post for SEO.

Don’t worry, there’s a hack for that. We recommend the Yoast SEO Plugin. Learn about how this and other plugins work here »

9. Be ready to analyze.

If you’re not analyzing how well your content does, you’re going to miss out. Install Analytics and be ready to study how your posts are doing. Learn how to get started with Google Analytics with this ebook»

10. Create your publishing plan.

The chances of people finding your content go way up if you have an adequate social media plan. We have some tools to help:

Blogging is one of the most effective routes to helping your nonprofit gain visibility. We hope you feel ready to start a nonprofit blog and that you reach out for help!

Enough New Year’s inspiration, time to get it all done (in 5 steps?) – January Nonprofit Marketing News

Seeing as your inbox has recently been flooded with several “top trends for the New Year” and other inspirational posts, we thought you might be feeling overwhelmed. We decided to simplify your main priorities down to five actionable steps.

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Photo source: Angel Oak Creative

– The Nerdy Nonprofit – January 2017 – 


Here are 5 steps for…

1) Engaging donors, one step at a time

“…fundraisers that meet new donors and make asks without a plan usually find those donor relationships to be short lived.” Make your donor relationships last this year.

2) Sparking authenticity in your branding & messaging

Despite how personal it can be to partake in a nonprofit’s wonderful work, nonprofit branding and messaging can often feel impersonal. Find some ways to ensure you’re speaking authentically and connecting with your audience.

3) Increasing fundraising success

After so much fundraising during giving season, it’s good to reflect on some critical aspects of fundraising and take steps towards even more success this year.

4) Writing a newsletter that your members will actually read

You finally put the newsletter together and send it out, and you find out later, hardly anyone read it. Sound familiar? Write a newsletter that engages. Here’s how

5) Optimizing your nonprofit’s blog content (and finally seeing more traffic)

Have you verified your nonprofit site with Google, had Google crawl your posts, or tried the best SEO tools? If not, your blog isn’t as strong as it could be. Help your nonprofit be found online. 

Google for Nonprofits – Free tools your nonprofit shouldn’t miss

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It can be thrilling to click through on all the “2017 predictions” or “what to do this New Year” headlines, but hold off for a minute! Before you do so, did you take a look at what Google has offered your nonprofit? Google just took a step back to recap 3 ways they sought to help nonprofits in 2016, which could show you free tools of which your nonprofit has yet to take advantage.

First, a compliment from Google:

2016 was a year where you continued your work to change the world; to bring the world a little closer to finding common ground amongst peace, progress, and innovation.

Now, to the free tools your nonprofit may have missed –

1. “Introducing new donation tool on YouTube benefiting nonprofits

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Google’s new donation tool, donation cards. Image source: Google blog

In short, Google points out how almost one-third of all internet users are on YouTube. That’s why Google’s nonprofit-exclusive tool “donation cards” have tremendous potential.

Basically, donation cards allow you to donate directly from your YouTube video to your organization. Also, with zero processing fees (it’s on Google).

Similarly awesome, other YouTube channels can use their video to raise money and directly donate to a nonprofit of their choice. And that nonprofit would receive 100% of the money donated.

Find out more in this video by Google:

Get started with donation cards:

It doesn’t stop there. They also get your nonprofit started with an outreach toolkit. If you know of a YouTube channel that would be willing to support your nonprofit, point them to this help page for using and managing donation cards.

2. From LA to Tokyo: YouTube Spaces opens production studios to nonprofits free of charge

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YouTube Spaces. Image source: Google blog

Google recognizes that though YouTube is an incredibly powerful tool for nonprofits, many nonprofits don’t have the resources to create a high quality video. Now, YouTube for Nonprofits is providing state-of-the-art production spaces all around the world for FREE to qualitifying nonprofits, called YouTube Spaces. Beyond that, they created a community that will help nonprofits learn the necessary skills for using this equipment – YouTube Creator Academy.

Learn about the deets and qualifications here »

3. “Unlocking your nonprofit’s data insights: Linking Ad Grants and Google Analytics”

Many nonprofits miss out on what might be the best free resource from Google: Google Ad Grants. Read more about getting your $10,000 from Google with our experts here before you learn what more this free money can do below.

If you are using your Google Ad Grant, you may have ran into a common predicament: How can you determine if your Ad Grant is causing increased conversions and actions vs. if it’s something else?

Well for starters, you can watch a three minute video.

The link between Google Analytics & AdWords will help you:

  • “Track website performance data
  • Import Goals & Transactions into AdWords
  • View website engagement data in AdWords
  • Create remarketing lists
  • View AdWords data in Google Analytics account”

Learn more about how this works in Google’s post »

4. “Four ways to keep your nonprofit safe & secure online”

In 2016, Google for Nonprofits partnered with Google’s User Advocacy Group to share 4 tips for keeping your nonprofit safe and secure online. Rather than just providing you with a ton of free resources (which is pretty amazing in itself) they tell you how to use them in a secure manner.

There tips in a nutshell?

1. Secure your passwords

2. Take the security checkup

3. Understand privacy settings

4. Switch between personal and business accounts


Now continue on with your work to change the world! Just be sure to get your much-deserved free help from your Google friends.

Pumpkins for a purpose – October Nonprofit Marketing News

Pumpkin spice and everything nice is finally here. Can your nonprofit do something with this season? Check out how Akard True Value Hardware raised money for nonprofits via “Pumpkins for a Purpose” and got their whole town and Facebook community involved too! Here’s the full story.


– The Nerdy Nonprofit – October 2016 – 


Content Strategy: Can your content marketing empower users? (Rather than guilt-tripping them)

From The Nerdy Nonprofit

“Rather than asking, ‘how can we best ask them to donate, volunteer and support us?’ some content could ask, “how can we empower our readers, and in effect, motivate them to take part in our cause?” [Read More]


Branding:The key to great year-end fundraising? Your brand.

Post by John Haydon

In year-end fundraising, the stakes are high. What can you depend on for drawing in those donors? Your brand.  [Read More]


Web Design: Unforeseen factors that can derail your website redesign

Post by ArcStone

Nonprofits definitely don’t want to go over-budget. Avoid the unexpected costs and obstacles many companies run into as they approach a new site. [Read More]


Fundraising: Raise More Money: Incentive-Based Fundraising 101

Post from Nonprofit Hub

4 ways to inspire people to donate and raise funds that you might not have thought of before [Read More]


Not subscribed to our newsletter? Find out more here.

 

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